Jail for serial shoplifter

Scales-of-Justice

- Credit: Archant

A serial shoplifter has been jailed after he went out stealing just hours after being given a final chance to give up crime.

Liam Bruce was caught stealing toiletries from the Coop in Ottery St Mary the day after he was given a suspended sentence by magistrates for a string of similar offences.

The unemployed heroin addict was caught three times more in the next few weeks and went on the run for eight months before police finally caught up with him.

Homeless Bruce, 22, who comes from Cullompton, but whose last address was Normandy Close, Exmouth, admitted four thefts and was jailed for 60 weeks by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

Bruce was sentenced in his absence after refusing to leave his cell at Exeter Prison, where he had made a failed suicide attempt earlier in the week.


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The judge said: “This defendant has 45 previous appearances for 98 offences, including 39 of dishonesty.

“These offences were committed after he received a suspended sentence for six shopliftings last year.

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“He stole more than £600 worth of goods and then absconded and managed to evade arrest until the last few days.”

Miss Felicity Payne, prosecuting, said Bruce admitted six previous offences of shoplifting at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on August 19 last year and received a suspended sentence.

The first of the new offences occurred at the Coop in Ottery on August 20, when he was seen on CCTV stealing toiletries and stuffing them in a rucksack while a female associate distracted staff.

He stole £100 worth of goods in that raid and £270 of toiletries and meat at the same shop in October.

He went on to be caught by a member of staff as he tried to get away from Lidl in Exmouth with £48 worth of venison in November and then stole two window washers worth £200 from B&Q in Exmouth three days later.

Mr Joss Ticehurst, defending, said Bruce failed to answer bail because he was terrified of going to jail for breaching the suspended sentence.

He said he should be given credit for admitting all the offences and not committing any more during the time when he was on the run.

He said Bruce’s suicide attempt occurred on his first night in custody at a time when he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from heroin use.

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